According to Brides Magazine, the number one reception detail guests value most (and the one they pay the most attention to) is food. Bar and drinks are number four on the list, right behind music and décor. As one of the best in New Orleans wedding catering, we have a long history of making the food one of the star wedding attractions. When planning for your special day, it’s important that you spend as much time choosing the right caterer and crafting the perfect catering menu as it is selecting floral decor and location.
Over our 60 years as one of the top New Orleans wedding caterers, we’ve learned what guests like and don’t like. Since food is one of the major attractions at a wedding, here are the top ten things we know to avoid:
Not Having Enough Food
Nothing is harder to please than a “hangry” crowd. While the bride and groom might have wedding jitters and therefore prefer light bites, guests want to eat! It’s important to provide enough food and the right variety of catering menu options for guests to ensure everyone has a good time.
Not Having Good Food
To us, the idea of delivering anything less than a stellar culinary experience is never an option. But we’ve all been to weddings where the only options were rubber chicken or tough steak. The best way to ensure your caterer is going to serve up a menu worthy-of a top restaurant is to find out what others have to say about them. Be sure to google the best caterers near me, or top New Orleans caterers and read their reviews. Also, be sure to visit the caterers’ social media pages to see if they are serving up Instagram-worthy dishes because after all, we eat with our eyes first! From there, be sure to have a tasting with your chosen caterer well in advance of the big day. At Messina’s, we love hosting tastings to allow our clients to take a taste “test drive” before their big day. A tasting will ensure your wedding menu will delight, and allow you to focus on more important details–like your vows!
Yes, alcohol can be a big part of any wedding catering budget, but guests aren’t really keen on buying the cocktail they’ll be toasting you with. That doesn’t mean you need to go all out with a full bar serving top-shelf liquor. A nice array of craft beers, wines, and signature cocktails can take some of the pressure off the budget while still showing your guests a great time. One trend in Millennial weddings is specialty bars like a bourbon bar, whiskey bar, or martini bar. We’re seeing millennials focus on drinks in different and creative ways.
Dinner Served Too Late
Even if your guests nosh their way through cocktail hour, they don’t want to wait too long before dinner is served. The bride and groom may be busy getting photos done, but be cognizant of the timing between the cocktail hour and dinner. If you’re having a seated dinner, you should expect to serve the first course no more than 30 to 45 minutes after the reception starts, followed closely by the main course. Experienced caterers like Messina’s can help keep the flow of food and fun on track.
Long Lines At The Bar
No one likes to wait in line (especially in heels) for a long period of time to get a drink. At Messina’s we typically plan for one bartender per 50 or 60 guests to make sure the service is speedy. Another way to ease lines for the rush as soon as the ceremony ends is to serve signature drinks. Because signature drinks are typically made in advance, serving them is very time-efficient and often only means a pour and adding some adornments to the glass. Experienced caterers can help with bar placement and staffing to avoid lines.
A Wedding Cake Too Fancy To Eat
Of course, it will get consumed because it is, after all, cake. However, 24-carat gold designs, handcrafted sugar paste flowers, and towering layers might make a nice first impression, and great photos, but few guests will remember each exquisite detail. You can opt instead for an elegantly simple confection that blows their mind on the first bite–that they’ll remember. Another great option is a dessert bar with numerous options. That way your guests can decide which indulgence they want for themselves.
The Wrong Wedding Venue
At Messina’s, we’re fortunate to either own or have partnerships with some of the finest wedding venues in New Orleans. Even with all these options, it’s important to let your wedding caterer guide you in choosing the right venue for your vision of your wedding day. For instance, you may want an outdoor wedding, but in July in the Crescent City, a hybrid of indoor/outdoor spaces might make more sense. Likewise, you don’t need to secure a grand hall for an intimate wedding of 50 or fewer guests. Guests will feel lost in that large of a space. And keep in mind how your guests will arrive. Do you have a lot of local attendees? If so, parking may be important. Are most of your guests coming from a nearby hotel? Then your venue should be walkable or easy to get to via public transportation.
There’s nothing more disheartening than having catering staff that is unresponsive to your guests needs. The most beautiful venue, and the most delicious food can all be tarnished by poor customer service. Impeccable customer service is the glue that holds everything together. Weddings have lots of moving parts, so inevitably something will go wrong. But there are no do overs in weddings, so immediate decisions and actions need to be made quickly and efficiently. Maybe a guest forgot to notify you of their dietary needs. Or maybe a place card was lost and a guest is left feeling unwelcome. These situations can be quickly handles and de-escalated by providing a sincere apology coupled with a swift and discrete resolution. The catering staff should be empowered to quickly address guest concerns so guests feel as though their needs are valid and addressed quickly and thoroughly.
Your full-service catering staff should be able to scan the room to help identify issues that might have nothing to do with food. For instance, if people are continually getting lost in trying to find the restroom, having a staff member staged near where the confusion is can help guide people in the right direction without them having to ask. Is there a large/confusing distance between your ceremony and your reception space? Be sure to have staff members on hand to easily guide guests from one venue to the next.
While many feel this falls mostly in the personal responsibility category, weddings are ideal places for people who don’t typically drink to imbibe a little too much. This could be due to event jitters, too much time between the ceremony and the reception, or the fact that it’s a celebration where alcohol plays an important role. An experienced bartender will take note of someone who appears to be impaired and can suggest another non-alcoholic option. Messina’s bartenders are all trained on safe alcohol service.
BONUS Tip – Not Feeling Safe
With the world starting to come back to life after the pandemic, you want to make sure guests feel safe attending your wedding. That’s where COVID wedding etiquette comes in. Whatever your COVID event protocols are, whether it be requiring (or not requiring) masks, requiring (or not requiring) proof of vaccinations, requiring (or not requiring) a negative COVID test, it’s best to communicate with guests ahead of time what those protocols are. Also, be sure to implore COVID-conscience catering. This means focusing more on passed hors d’oeuvres and individual servings rather than large format presentations.
Pro Tip: Choose An Experienced New Orleans Caterer
There’s no better training than experience in identifying wedding pain-points. A full-service caterer like Messina’s can help you plan the perfect menu inspired by a theme, your preferences, the season, or whatever you feel would best celebrate your union – just like we’ve been doing since 1961. Learn more by visiting MessinasCatering.com. We’ll help you craft the perfect celebration for saying “I do” and one will guests will remember long after the rice is thrown.